Monday, January 11, 2010

An Impossible Salvation

Have you ever thought of salvation as impossible? Most of the time, we don’t. In fact, it seems very possible to us. A few years ago a t-shirt company produced a design that parodied the famous Staples’ easy-button advertising campaign. The easy button was replaced by a Jesus button, and the slogan was “It’s just that easy.”

But what does that mean in the modern, Christian culture? It usually means that one must do something in order for God to respond and save one from hell, or, in the case of the t-shirt, solve life’s problem. And what does that “something” look like? For many, it means to say a certain prayer, ask for forgiveness, “accept” Jesus, believe facts about Jesus, and so on. So we have made it easy! I do A and God will do B.

It is doubtful, however, that the Apostles would have seen it this way. One key encounter with Jesus probably cemented it in their hearts and minds forever. In Matthew 19, a young, upright man with great wealth came to Christ and asked, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Here was a man who was morally upright and a leading figure in the minds of the Apostles. If anyone seemed poised to be right with God, it was this guy. Christ exposed his true heart, however, when he asks the man to give up all to follow Him. The man went away sad because he could not forsake what he had to follow Christ. Jesus showed the young man that his true treasure was not in what God deemed important, namely His Son.

After the encounter, Jesus says to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Thinking that the young man was the prime candidate for one who may enter the Kingdom of God, the Apostles reeled in amazement. Verse 25 says, “When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’” In other words, Jesus, if it is impossible for this guy to be saved, then how is it possible for anybody? What was Jesus’ reply? “With men this is impossible.”

With men, this is impossible! Go back to the young man’s question. “What good thing SHALL I DO. . .?” Shall I say a prayer; shall I just believe a list of facts, etc.? The answer is that in your current state and with your current abilities, it is impossible! Muster up what you can. Cross your t’s & dot your i’s. With you, it is impossible.

This prospect left the disciples right where Jesus wanted them. They obviously understood what Christ was saying in their astonished response. Can you just imagine the trepidation in their voices? Can you feel the panic that may have arisen in their chests as they saw any hope they had dash into million pieces on a single word – impossible?

It reduces us to hopelessness. Our situation is pretty grim. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). There really isn’t much a dead person can do to revive himself. What prayer can a dead person say or what faculties does a dead person have in order to accomplish anything that will bring him to life? There is none. Visit any local funeral home or cemetery and see for yourself. If this is true in the physical realm, the same is true in the spiritual realm. Paul says we are dead, spiritually. What can your dead spirit do to invoke a change? Death is death.

Secondly, we are beyond putrid when compared to the blazing righteousness of God. In Romans 3, Paul describes all humans when he says, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have all together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.’” But you may say, “Wait a second, I seek after God.” Surely the rich, young ruler thought the same. Until found the true God. Then he was incapable of seeking after Him.

Thirdly, our dead and putrid spiritual state leaves us in a huge quandary. We do not have the ability to do anything in order to be acceptable to God, and the scriptures says that “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). We need to be justified, but the Word clearly says that anyone who justifies the wicked are an abomination to the Lord. The problem is that we need to be justified and God is the only one who can accomplish this. Can God be an abomination to Himself? How can He justify himself and still be true to His own nature?

All of these problems should lead us to something that has been all but forgotten in modern America: hopelessness. Our spiritual deadness and inability to do anything profitable, our state before God as depraved before His righteousness, and His inability to simply look over your sins and count you as justified without demanding a reckoning for your sin should lead you the same place the Apostles found themselves in. Then who can be saved? We are truly sunk. Eternal life is impossible! It should leave us sinking in a sea of black despair where we can only cry out to one, Jesus, and in that desperation and hopelessness call upon Him to save us.

How can we if we are spiritually dead? He makes us alive. Ezekiel 36:27,28 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Colossians 2:13, 14 “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” God does what we cannot do for ourselves. He makes us alive! The work of regeneration is upon Him.

What about our mountains of sin that God must require a reckoning for? Romans 3:21-26 “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” A reckoning has been made! God’s eternal wrath against our sin was paid for in Christ! And for those whose hearts have been changed by God, therein is created faith, trust, and commitment to the one who can rescue us from our despair!

Could the rich young ruler have been saved? Yes! If God had granted him a new heart that beat for Christ and rested in faith in Him. The scripture says he went away sad, but not in holy sorrow. He did not have a new heart to feel the despair and hopelessness of his situation and therefore call out and trust the one who could save him.

This is what we are missing today. The hopelessness, the despair, and the true weight of the word impossible. Christ did not leave the Apostles with no hope. He said to them, “. . .with God all things are possible.” This is where we need to be. There is an impossibility to salvation that should frighten us as men to the core of our being and cause us to shake and tremble before God. Then, if God so wills, He will open our hearts to know that with Him, and only with Him, it is possible, and we will humbly call to him as a drowning man would call out for rescue in the midst of a black sea. Then we will truly know that salvation is of the Lord!

Psalm 68:20 Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

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